Today, February 2nd, is the Feast of the Presnetation of Christ in the Temple, also known as the Purification of the BVM, also known as Candelmas. It is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church Year.
It is the day when Joseph and Mary bring Christ to the Temple in Jerusalem, where he is to be "presented" to God. This observation is often combined with the Circumcision of Jesus, hence the first time that His blood is shed.
According to Jewish law, the firstborn male child belonged to God, and the parents had to "buy him back" on the 40th day after his birth, by offering a sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24
) in the temple (thus the "presentation" of the child). On that same day, the mother would be ritually purified (thus the "purification").
Inspired by the words of the canticle ("a light to the revelation of the Gentiles"), by the 11th century, the custom had developed in the West of blessing candles on the Feast of the Presentation. The candles were then lit, and a procession took place through the darkened church while the Canticle of Simeon was sung. Because of this, the feast also became known as Candlemas. While the procession and blessing of the candles is not often performed in the United States today, Candlemas is still an important feast in many European countries